The jam session is an integral part of jazz and has been since it was born in New Orleans in the early 20th Century. The jam session provides a great way for musicians to meet up and hear each other play while also entertaining an audience. The York jazz jam session has been running on a Wednesday night for many years. Formerly at The Black Swan, the gig moved to The Phoenix Inn, George Street approximately 5 years ago where it consistently sees great attendance from listeners and musicians.
A more recent addition to the York jazz calendar is the gypsy jazz jam at The Victoria Vaults, Nunnery Lane. Gypsy jazz is a mainly acoustic style of music which was pioneered by the Belgian guitar virtuoso Jean "Django" Reinhardt and his violin-playing counterpart, Stéphane Grappelli. The Arts Barge Gypsy Jazz Jam has a great atmosphere and has turned in to one of the most popular jazz nights in the city. The gig happens on the first and third Wednesday of the month at 8.30pm.
The Victoria Vaults often hosts jazz on a Tuesday evening with the traditional quartet Four In a Bar and the organ-led combo One Foot In the Groove. The gypsy jazz outfit Swing Collision also occasionally appear on Saturdays at the pub.
For musicians who wish to delve in to the world of jazz, there are educational materials on the website www.jazzinyork.com which are free to download. The York based trumpeter Ian Chalk runs a number of large and small ensembles for all ages and abilities to get involved in. You can get in touch with Ian for more information at www.ianchalk.net Ian also gives a run down of the weeks gigs on BBC Radio York around 3.30pm every Monday. It’s a great opportunity to find out what’s happening that week and hear a varied selection of jazz music.
The Firebird Quartet, featuring Ian Chalk on trumpet, have a residency at The Phoenix Inn on the 1st & 3rd Sunday of every month. The band play jazz standards and grooving, hip-hop infused rhythms. Inspired by the current New York jazz scene, the band have composed a set of originals which develop on each performance. On the second Sunday of the month at The Phoenix Inn, pianist Chris Moore leads a trio with bassist Georg Ruschmeyer. For those who love the classic piano trio albums of jazz legends, Thelonius Monk, Bud Powell and Bill Evans, this gig is highly recommended. A variety of excellent guest bands play at The Phoenix Inn on the 4th and 5th Sundays of the month.
Other pubs in the city centre feature jazz artists in their varied live music schedules. The Volunteer Arms on Watson Street has hosted the Kate Peters Quartet, the Cornelius Corkery Trio and others in recent months and The Last Drop Inn, Colliergate has a jazz night once a month.
York is very fortunate to have a deep pool of talented home grown musicians as well as a constant supply of students coming to study in Leeds at the music college. However, York also plays host to internationally renown jazz musicians. The National Centre For Early Music regularly brings in jazz stars such as Dennis Rollins, Julian Argüelles and Andy Sheppard. York University is also integral to bringing big name artists to the city. Starting next Friday, the university is presenting an event looking at the influence of South African musicians on the British jazz scene. This event will climax with a performance by the pianist Tete Mbambisa at the NCEM on 9th September.
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